2015 Annual Report
June 14, 2015
Welcome to the 2015 Dinner on the Ground and annual membership meeting. This is our fourth Dinner on the Ground, although we had to relocate this year due to the unprecedented floods and storms.
The Willow Wild Cemetery Association, Inc. was incorporated on November 19, 2012, as a non-profit and non-perpetual care cemetery in the State of Texas. Parker McComas jumped through many onerous IRS hoops to get the Association federal nonprofit cemetery status. On Sept. 26, 2014, we received the following in a letter from the IRS:
We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax-exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c) (13) of the Internal Revenue Code Section 170(c) (5) of the Code provides for the deduction for Federal incometax purposes of contributions to cemetery companies of the type described in section 501(c) (13). To be deductible, the contributions must be voluntary and must be made to or for the use of a nonprofit cemetery whose funds are irrevocably dedicated to the care of the cemetery as a whole. A donor may not deduct a contribution made for the perpetual care of a particular lot or crypt. Furthermore, payments made to a cemetery company as a part of the purchase price of a burial lot or crypt, even though irrevocably dedicated to the perpetual care of the cemetery as a whole, are not deductible.
Willow Wild has had a great year including a few challenges. Some improvements you may notice are the new street signs that make it easier to locate the road for a particular section in the cemetery. This was a big job overseen by Parker McComas with the help of Brad Lacy. Vic Poe gave us a deal on the actual signs and Crossroads Hardware in Leonard cut us a break on the poles.
Ben and Carolyn Lawrence have been steadily improving the office to make it a comfortable place to discuss uncomfortable business. Gloria Walker from Walker & Sons cut us a deal on new carpet, and Ashmore Flooring gave us a good price on staining the bathroom floor. Cindy Ashmore and Hope Concrete donated planters to go in front of the office.
The Bonham VFW Post 4852 replaced the flagpole on the VFW monument as you come into the cemetery. Representatives of the Post came to Willow Wild to re-dedicate the flagpole to the memory of Bonham native 1st Lt. James E Bragg, a highly decorated pilot in the U.S Air Force during World War II. Lloyd Dodson presided over the ceremony and was joined by Lt. Bragg’s family, Post 4852 members, and WWCA members just prior to our Dinner on the Ground last year.
The Association placed a marker on the grave of Alice Cox who died before her fourth birthday in 1878. Little Alice was the first burial in Willow Wild. Jim Adams led a successful campaign through our Concerned Friends of Willow Wild Facebook page to gather donations for crepe myrtles. Twin Oaks Nursery in Sherman gave a discount price. He and several volunteers gathered to plant them at Willow Wild last December.
The Association sees Willow Wild as an integral part of the greater community. In an effort to support the community, Parker McComas prepared his famous brisket sandwiches. Cathy Denton Taylor and Gary Porter joined him on a windy, muddy day to serve the sandwiches to the volunteers building the Powder Creek Playground. And, we joined the Chamber of Commerce.
Storms during the last year brought down some of the old, beautiful trees at Willow Wild and damaged the fence along the south side. Parker and his daughter donated countless hours to remove brush and cut up and remove some of the trees. Brad Lacy assisted. Stapp Tree Trimming also was hired to trim and remove trees. The fence was repaired. Vandals came into the cemetery and overturned several monuments. Love Monument Company reset the monuments at a very discounted price.
The pipes that feed the many water faucets throughout the cemetery have numerous leaks and would be too costly to repair. Water to the faucets has been turned off. A functioning faucet is available outside the office. The City of Bonham has notified the Association that they will begin to charge Willow Wild for water in the coming year for the first time in the history of the cemetery.
Since 1878, Willow Wild has buried almost 9,600 local residents. Many of these no longer have family in the area or may not have any family left to help care for their graves. Any additional funds that came into Willow Wild for their lots or burials have long since been depleted leaving their care to the greater Willow Wild community. Efforts to recruit volunteers have not been fruitful. An attempt to partner with the prison system was unsuccessful. As a result, to maintain Willow Wild, the Association is tasked with raising approximately $40,000 each year. Help with raising funds is always welcome and necessary.
Last summer, through the Concerned Friends of Willow Wild Facebook page, a successful fundraising campaign to “Pay the Mower” brought in $14,000 in donations. Coach Nolan Ashmore suggested a golf tournament which is happening today to honor Coach Jack McElhannon and Coach Nolan Ashmore. Patti Biggerstaff Gault kicked this off with a Class Hole Sponsorship competition to encourage classes to compete against each other with the backdrop of the Bonham High School All School Reunion. So far, the Association membership has been able to sustain the maintenance of Willow Wild, but challenges lie ahead in the near future unless the base of supporters is broadened.
The Association faces both realities and dreams in the plan for the future, which will necessitate a capital campaign. At least two new roads need to be built to allow access to the remaining gravesites within the existing cemetery. This is estimated to cost a minimum of $20,000. The existing roads were built in a partnership between Friends of Willow Wild and the City of Bonham many years ago. The City is no longer open to this type of support for Willow Wild.
Since Willow Wild began, our world has changed with more and more people turning to cremation. The Association is creating a long range plan to create a memorial garden that would include building a new chapel with a columbarium. The chapel would include an office and provide for weather resistant space with beautiful views of Willow Wild for graveside services. The first step of realizing this dream will be the development of a site plan which will allow us to grow as funds become available through a capital campaign. The Association sees this as an opportunity for growth for Willow Wild to carry it through the next hundred years.
You, the members of the Corporation, consist of owners of burial plots, adult family members of individuals buried at Willow Wild, and all other adult persons of the age of 18 years or older who are interested in Willow Wild Cemetery.
The directors for 2015-16 are Charlotte Watson, president; Ben Lawrence, treasurer; Gary Michael Porter, secretary and webmaster, Lou Ashmore Brown, and Judy Stevens Jeanes. Barbara Biggerstaff Gore completed her term on the Board and will continue as a community ambassador for Willow Wild. Judy will begin a three-year term. Lou completed her initial term and agreed to continue for a three-year term. Parker McComas retired from the Board to pursue other adventures in life including a home in Florida. Ben will complete the remaining year on Parker’s term. Carolyn Moore Lawrence will continue to volunteer as the service manager overseeing day-to-day operations.
The Association Board of Directors cannot adequately express their gratitude to Parker and Barbara for all they have given since the very beginning of the effort to restore Willow Wild. We also would be lost without the steady hand and innumerable hours that Carolyn provides daily. While the Association contracts with Brad Lacy for grave digging, Brad donates countless hours to help with other cemetery needs from digging holes for crepe myrtles to emptying the garbage bins scattered throughout Willow Wild. We are very fortunate to have such dedicated people giving so much of themselves to keep Willow Wild a place where our loved can rest at peace and with the respect they spent their lives earning.
We are grateful to North Texas E-News and the Fannin County Leader for helping us with publicity for cemetery news and events. Brookshires is always supportive when we need food items for events. Love Monument Company has helped us through some rough spots and has provided us with a referral payment for markers they sell when the buyer mentions a referral from the Association.
Charlotte A. Watson, President